Nevada County prepares for orange tier |

Nevada County prepares for orange tier

Nevada County trails behind the majority of the rest of California counties in a tiered system set to expire June 15.

Nevada County’s COVID-19 case rates meet the requirements for the orange tier listed in a Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

If the county’s numbers stay this low, a level not locally recorded since September, the county would move into the orange tier this coming Wednesday — just two weeks before the state plans to abolish the tiered system.

Restaurants will increase from 25% to 50% capacity indoors, gyms to 25% capacity indoors, and movie theaters to 50% capacity indoors.

Health and Human Services Director Ryan Gruver said if the county “stays on track” for the next two weeks, indoor facilities dedicated to eating, exercising or entertaining should be able to open back up to 100% capacity.

“This is a more comfortable transition to the orange tier,” Gruver said, adding he prefers that public and private entities open slowly.

Given that vaccinations are not generally the responsibility of public health departments, Gruver said he was impressed and grateful for the accomplishments made by Nevada County’s Public Health Director Dr. Jill Blake and her team.

Gruver said over a quarter of the total doses distributed were done by her department, as opposed to private entities like Dignity Health. Eventually, Gruver anticipates vaccine distribution will be normalized when it’s made primarily available through a regular health care provider.

Blake said the county anticipated that there would be certain people who would jump on the opportunity to be vaccinated as soon as it became available, and those that would resist or reject the idea altogether.

According to California’s Health and Human Services’ website, Nevada County’s total number of fully vaccinated people is 38,258.

Blake said over 60% of residents surveyed support the vaccine and 15% remain undecided. Blake said her department is conducting targeted outreach to those who are undecided.


Blake also said that comparing counties, their case rates and immunization data is not necessarily useful for her job’s intent and purpose.

“If you see one community, you see one community,” Blake said. “Ours is unique and we will continue to do everything we can to get the vaccine out there.”

Blake said that includes offering people rides to the clinic.

“Transportation services can be arranged through MyTurn,” Blake said.

Blake said the Whispering Pines Clinic has sufficient capacity to deliver 300-325 doses a day. The clinic only has 343 appointments scheduled for the whole week. Sixty to 90 people is better than nothing, but she was more disappointed at the disparity between the Sierra College clinic’s weekly appointment capacity, 1,500, and scheduled appointments, 32.

Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Kellermann said over 85,000 doses of the available vaccines have been distributed throughout the county of approximately 100,000 people so far.

Kellermann and Blake said they anticipated the interest in available vaccines to diminish over time, and are concentrating on those 18 to 40 — the local demographic that data indicates is lagging in their vaccination progress.

Kellermann originally predicted the county needed to issue 3,000 vaccines a week to meet the goal of 50% of the population vaccinated by mid-June.

“The immunization rate is a little behind the state, but I think we’re doing relatively well,” Kellermann said.

The state announced it will align with the CDC’s current mask guidance — meaning vaccinated individuals will be able to be unmasked in most settings and unvaccinated individuals will be required to continue wearing masks in most settings — when California moves “Beyond the Blueprint.“ Almost all restrictions on physical distancing and capacity will be lifted as immunizations progress and the mid-June date nears.

According to a county press release, “mega” events with over 5,000 attendees indoors and 10,000 attendees outdoors will still have some COVID-19-related requirements.

Gruver said there was some confusion when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that people need not mask while they are outside, because neither the region nor the state was ever under a CDC-imposed mask requirement. Gruver expressed concern that the majority of people who claim to not need the mask are likely still unvaccinated.

Gruver said the mask requirement was imposed and can be enforced by the state.

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at


The COVID-19 vaccine is widely available in Nevada County to all residents age 12 and over. Vaccine pop-up and walk-in clinics, transportation support and in-home vaccination options are available at or by calling 1-833-422-4255 toll free


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